I will never ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself
by Tobias van Schneider
In 2012, I worked for Fantasy Interactive in New York City. My creative director's name was Anton. I always thought he was Russian, but turns out he's Estonian. I'm still pretending he's Russian.
Either way, as a German boy myself I always appreciated his directness (it's why I love working with Russians myself). If he didn't like something, he'd tell you. And if he liked something, he'd nod and walk away. Maybe he is in fact German.
I learned a lot from him, in particular from his relentless push to do things better – often to a tiring, yet rewarding degree. Anton was the always ON kind of boss.
To me, there are two kinds of bosses. The ones who can't do what you can, and the ones who can do it even better. Anton was in the second category.
It was a bit of a problem, because you knew if you didn't deliver great work, Anton would take over and do it himself. Still, he'd always trust you. He'd let you figure it out, at least for some time. He would never be mad at you if you couldn't do it. He'd silently take over if it became necessary, pull an all-nighter and somehow make it better than you ever could.
It was both inspiring and humiliating. But humiliating in a good way, because it pushed me to get better on my own. And it instilled in me two things that change how I work every day:
1. I want to be that kind of boss. The boss who understands his craft, design things, writes copy, animates something if I have to, installs a new software and figures it out if it's needed. I don't have to know everything, and that's not my goal. I'd just rather be a boss who is respected through his work, rather than the boss who is put in a managerial position by default and sits idly behind a desk.
Like Anton, I aim to keep creating and keeping my mind fresh. Even if just for my own self worth, I want to always have the ability to do the work myself. It doesn't mean that I'll do it, but it means that I theoretically can. The effect that has on me, and the people I work with, is what it is important.
2. I am not above a task, no matter how small. There's a quote from the movie Nightcrawler that goes like this: "I will never ask you to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself." To me this translates to: If I ask someone to do a mundane task, I want it to be understood that I'd also gladly do it myself. And there will be many occasions where I'll show them that.
It's why I've always respected Anton, to this day. He didn't feel too important for certain tasks. His eyes were always on the prize, the final result. The perfection in the end. Whatever it took to get there, he'd do it. It's not always the most efficient strategy, but it's the one that keeps me sane. Keeps me on the ground. Keeps me grinding and working. Keeps my mind fresh and sharp.
If I ever feel lost myself, I just remind myself where I came from. Why I got into this in the first place. I think of Anton, and I imagine he's still doing the same.